The One Great Gnome by Jeff Dinardo
Children’s literature isn’t usually my favorite thing to review, but I saw this on Netgalley, and I thought it looked charming. The cover is delightful, whimsical and the written tales of gnomes have always delighted me. Today I’m reviewing the Audiobook for “The One Great Gnome” by Jeff Dinardo, Narrated by Simone Stevens.
Firstly, let me give a brief synopsis here. Sarah is 11, and she moved with her family to Connecticut, and she has to get used to her new surroundings. Like most eleven-year-olds I know, she’s curious and goes looking about everywhere. She finds a gnome statue and then brings it inside, and in so doing, ends up in a world of gnomes. I’m not going to give any spoilers; I think it’s worth listening to or reading this story for more details.
Now for the review, and to start, I’m going to critiques. The first act of this story is very dry and slow. The idea is for children to listen to this, and it was a long haul on me getting my son even to sit to listen. Sometimes he does, sometimes he doesn’t, and I never could get him back after chapter 2. My daughter, who is 11, was fine with it, but she thought the beginning was dry also, so be aware of that.
If you’re a mom like me who plays audiobooks in the car for a captive audience, this is the perfect book to do that with because of the slow burn. I feel though this could have been edited a bit tighter. The meat of the story happens after chapter 5 for me at least, and I think chapters 1 to 3 could have been tightened up personally, but again that’s my opinion here. This wasn’t just pacing or structure; it was a combination of things that caused this slow-moving beginning, and with kids, that’s not easy to get them back to reading voluntarily, from what I’ve observed in my house.
Since that critique encompasses many things, I’m going to leave it at that. The good news is it was my major issue, so I say we get on with the good stuff.
The narrator Simone Stevens is a treasure. She had a great vocal tone for the story, made beautiful voices, and had a great pacing to her cadence. My son thought she was fantastic when he did stick around. Additionally, the production of the story was fantastic. There were ambient and secondary sounds like fire, crashing, doors shutting, thuds and thumps, all sorts of great things to enhance the audio presentation. I adored that. I think audio sounds should be in any audiobook because I feel like it enhances the story.
Second, I love the ending of this. The thing about stories where a character can go in-between places is that there are time issues. But as this is a children’s book and not a horror novel, it should end on a positive note but be logical in its whimsey. I love how this story came to a close and did just those things and made the story so fantastic.
Lastly, the character development, story arcs, lore, and world-building are fantastic. The character of Masey, for example, is a well-done character that is used not only for guidance but also to show growth in herself and the characters around her. Fiona, another character, is handy and great, and even she has a decisive role to play in this story. Everything that was set up made the tale fun and unique and had some realism in its theme. The central theme I took home is where your family is, and it’s worth fighting for.
Thus, I give “The One Great Gnome” an 80 out of 100, which is a 4-star review on Goodreads, NetGalley, My blog, and The Reading Desk. If you are interested in a fun children’s fantasy audiobook, this may be the perfect thing for you!